I am not normally an anglophile, but over the past couple of months I have spent way too many hours devouring British TV shows.
I have even developed a severe case of confused Brit accent disorder as I switch from listening to 1920s Birmingham gangsters to 1950s upper class Londoners, and back.
My ancestors fled England in the 1620s on a small ship, not far behind the Mayflower, and I’ve always assumed they had good reasons to risk everything for a new life so my interest in Britain has been minimal.
But my current problem is Netflix and access to two addictive British TV series, namely Peaky Blinders and The Crown. I first became aware that I had a problem just a couple weeks ago when I found myself chained to the couch watching episode after episode.
Like many modern problems, this one started on Facebook.
A few months back a friend recommended Peaky Blinders in a Facebook post and I put it on my burgeoning to-watch list. Finally, several weeks ago as a lunch-time diversion I started been watching the show, which really should be called Peaky Fookin’ Blinders, to capture the spirit of the characters, and I became hooked. OK, and confused by the accents, forced from time-to-time to rewind to catch key bits, much as I had done when trying to understand the inner-city Baltimore dialects on The Wire.
As I worked through season two I worried about the number of times poor Tommy Shelby was shot or beaten and figured he might have a future on General Hospital, my wife’s favourite soap opera, where stars frequently suffer injuries that would kill mere mortals, but they bounce back after the commercial break.
Then, I decided I should put the Blinders on hold while I watched the first two seasons of The Crown, so that I could catch up with my wife and we could watch its new episodes together. So, I left behind the violent gangsters of 1920s Birmingham and got immersed in the machinations of the House of Windsor.
The story was more compelling than I expected, but whiney Phillip Mountbatten, or whatever his last name really should be, and milquetoast Peter Townsend were no match for Tommy and his violent family. Margaret’s wildish streak also could not compare with Arthur Shelby’s demons.
I’m pretty sure that my family history in England is a lot closer to the grimy streets of Birmingham than it is to the castles of the rich, even though my family name does mean the person in charge of his master’s chambers.
Mission accomplished with the end of season two of The Crown, I’m now back on my Peaky Blinders jag, wearing my newsboy cap around town and mulling over how to insert the razor blades without cutting myself. I suspect my neighbours may wonder why I am wearing a long black coat and strutting down the sidewalk with my shoulders hunched forward, arms at a 45-degree angle, daring anyone to cross my path.
As I walk my dog, I curse at any squirrels and wandering cats: “Get out of our way, we’re the Peaky Fookin’ Blinders.” And yes, I do get some strange looks, and the dog is confused.
It’s a good thing the neighbours don’t know that I am humming the theme music and frequently check to see if I have a red, right hand.